At $28 billion—and counting—the enormous funding of India’s entrepreneurs in 2021 has stunned the investing world in Covid-struck 2021. This stamp of authority by a myriad set of home-grown entrepreneurs, still in their 20s and 30s, has no parallel in Indian history.
Even diehard cynics of the tech funding boom agree this breed is different. They are gutsy, fearless, persevering and way, way more confident. In 2021 so far, of the world’s 329 new unicorns (companies with valuation of $1 billion or higher), 27 are from India. They have brazenly challenged — and won against — the status quo in industries dominated by long established business houses, leaving the latter with a lot to mull over: Why the country’s biggest retailer could not create a Flipkart; the country’s biggest banks couldn’t be a Paytm or PhonePe; the country’s biggest hotel chain couldn’t dream up an OYO. Questions like these will continue to haunt the incumbents for years to come. But that, indeed, is a global story.
Whether it’s the industry giants who missed the woods for the trees in India and around the world, or these intrepid entrepreneurs have simply looked at the world very differently, the domestic entrepreneurial ecosystem has never been stronger.
Consider the strong base of this pyramid: India had 41,317 start-ups as of December, 2020, according to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade [DPIIT]; more than 39,000 start-ups have reported an aggregate cumulative job creation of 4.7 lakh; each of India’s 30 states and UTs has a dedicated start-up policy—at least on paper.
And, here’s a surprise feat even the most illustrious firms are struggling to achieve: 44% of the DPIIT-recognised start-ups have at least one woman director!
Their achievements could embarrass the best of India Inc.! The question is: how did they do it? At Fortune India, we dived deep into the minds of the founders of 27 most-valued unicorns. Whether it’s Byju’s, Ola, OYO or the previous-generation firms such as Flipkart, each story captures the unicorn’s journey from the idea to early struggle and hitting upon the monetisation model; the biggest challenges, the make or break moments; not to forget the tech, HR, finance and sales & marketing challenges—and the lessons learnt. All from the horse’s mouth—the founders themselves.
Remember, there are another 35 unicorns in homeland India that we could not accommodate in this issue. Some of them with unique distinctions. Among them is former banker Falguni Nayar’s personal care company Nykaa which has seen a meteoric rise since its launch in 2012. Or, Naveen Tiwari’s InMobi & Glance, which are going for IPO and next round of funding, respectively. Remember Snapdeal! Having lost the race sandwiched between Flipkart and Amazon, the promising etailer’s valuation may have fallen but don’t count it out just yet.
Savour your special Collector’s Issue for years to come. Your feedback — in bouquets or brickbats — is welcome.